Cleansing of the Temple
Jesus entered the Temple and stood in the Court of the Gentiles. What He saw grieved and horrified Him. So He set to and began to throw the traders out. Out went the men who changed people’s money into Temple currency at outrageous exchange rates – just so they could pay their annual taxes. Out went those who sold doves, the minimum sacrifice required from poor people, at high prices. Out went all those who bought and sold. He would not even allow anyone to carry things to sell through the Temple precincts.
“It is clearly stated in the Law and Prophets,” He declared, “that God’s house shall be a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it into a den of thieves! Out, out, the lot of you!”
Then He began to teach and heal and the crowds thronged round to hear Him.
“Hey!” said the Pharisees. “If you’re really the Messiah and have the right to do this, give us a sign!”
“How about the sign of Jonah?” suggested Jesus. “He was in the dark for three days and three nights. So shall I be. Or how about this? Destroy the Temple and I will build it again in three days.”
“Three days!” they exclaimed. “That there Temple took forty six years to get like that. How can you build it in three days?”
They went away and wondered what on earth they could do to stop this strange teacher when He had so much public support.
The disciples were also puzzled by this. It was not till much later, till after Jesus had been resurrected and appeared to them, that they finally understood. Jesus had been speaking prophetically of His death and time in the tomb.
Story of the Vineyard
Jesus noticed the Pharisees listening and told this story:
Once upon a time a man made a beautiful vineyard, complete with a sheltering hedge and a winepress for processing the grapes. He rented it out and went off travelling.
At the harvest time, he sent a servant to collect the rent. But the tenants beat him up and sent him back empty handed.
So the man sent another servant. They stoned him and made his head bleed and once again sent him away without the rent. The man sent servant after servant, and each one was treated shamefully. Some were sent away and some were killed. But no one got any rent.
At last the man sent his only, much loved son to find out what was going on. “They will respect him,” he thought, “and I shall get my rent at last.”
But the tenants spotted him coming and recognised him immediately.
“Look, that’s the heir to this place. If we kill him, it will all be ours!”
As soon as the son arrived, they grabbed him and murdered him.
“So,” asked Jesus, “what would the landowner do to those wicked tenants? I’ll tell you. He will come himself, kill them and give his beautiful vineyard to someone else.”
The Pharisees knew He was telling this story against them and it made them more determined than ever to get rid of Him. But what could they do? Any attempt to arrest Jesus would make the crowds turn against them and there would be just the sort of uprising they were trying to avoid. When the Romans flattened a riot they tended to do it very thoroughly and comprehensively. The Jewish leaders did not want this to happen at all.